Weather News

Hurricane Dorian causes flooding and closes some roads. But it’s not another Florence.

Hurricane Dorian was still churning along the coast of North Carolina when it became clear the storm wouldn’t produce the kind of long-term flooding and extensive road closures that Hurricane Florence did a year ago.

Numerous roads and streets in the Wilmington area were impassable Friday morning because of high water and downed trees, according to the N.C. Department of Transportation. Dorian dropped 10 inches of rain at Wilmington International Airport, according to the National Weather Service.

But major roads into the city remained open, in contrast to a year ago after Florence. And the prolonged rainfall that followed Florence’s landfall near Wrightsville Beach and swelled creeks and rivers in Eastern North Carolina wasn’t repeated this time, as Dorian moved off the coast toward the northeast by Friday evening.

Rivers that spilled their banks a year ago, including the Lumber and the Cape Fear, are not forecast to cause major flooding now. The worst river flooding from Hurricane Dorian is expected along the Northeast Cape Fear River; it is now forecast to crest as a “minor” flood near Burgaw on Wednesday and remain nearly 15 feet lower than the record flood level it reached after Florence.

Minor flooding is also expected along the Neuse River in Kinston, but not farther upstream in Goldsboro, Smithfield or Clayton, according to the weather service.

The extent of road closures in southeastern North Carolina began to become clear after daylight Friday, and the news was good, said Secretary of Transportation Jim Trogdon. As of 8 a.m., only about 75 roads were reported closed, most clustered around Wilmington and Greenville.

“Compared to Florence, I think I was already at 750 by the same time period,” Trogdon said.

By mid-afternoon, as Dorian pulled away from the coast, the number of road closures had climbed to more than 80. High water blocked sections of U.S. 264A west of Greenville and U.S. 264 near Belhaven, as well as U.S. 70 near Beaufort. N.C. 12 was closed in several places Friday afternoon, near Beaufort, in Southern Shores and on Ocracoke Island and near Frisco on Hatteras Island, Trogdon said

A large share of closures were due to downed trees, Trogdon said, “and that’s easy to repair.” He also said the top NCDOT engineer in New Hanover County told him Friday morning that water was draining from the roads much better than after previous storms, and that many flooded roads may reopen soon as well.

“Everything looks much better than we had hoped for at this point,” he said.

Ferries docked

After helping with evacuations, the last of the state’s ferries shut down Thursday before the full brunt of Dorian hit the state. Trogdon said ferries should begin running again Saturday morning and urged people to check the ferry division’s website,, to get the latest information and schedules.

One ferry route, between Southport and Fort Fisher, is expected to remain closed through September. The ramp system used to load and unload cars and trucks at Southport failed Aug. 27, and even before Dorian’s arrival NCDOT said it would take until Oct. 1 to make repairs.

Amtrak trains are resuming normal service in North Carolina, according to NCDOT. Trains that operate east of Raleigh, including the Carolinian, were canceled because of the storm. The Carolinian and the southbound Silver Star and Silver Meteor will run as normal Friday, while the northbound Silver Star and Silver Meteor will resume on Saturday.

As many as 1,600 roads were closed in North Carolina after Hurricane Florence came ashore last Sept. 14, including sections of Interstates 95 and 40. All roads in and out of Wilmington were impassable for several days, and NCDOT began making arrangements to bring supplies into the city by ship.

Many roads quickly reopened as floodwaters receded, but others required extensive repairs and new bridges and culverts. The last of those 1,600 roads did not reopen until the end of April.

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Richard Stradling covers transportation for The News & Observer. Planes, trains and automobiles, plus ferries, bicycles, scooters and just plain walking. Also, #census2020. He’s been a reporter or editor for 32 years, including the last 20 at The N&O. 919-829-4739,